I’m excited to launch a regular feature here at Indy Food Swappers– the Swapper Spotlight. We have an incredible food swap community in Indianapolis, and this seems like a fun way to get to know each other better, and continue the conversation between swaps. (Thanks to SF Swappers, a San Francisco-based food swap, for the inspiration!)
And I’m happy to report that each person in the Swapper Spotlight will also share one of his or her favorite recipes. So, prepare yourself for some swapper-approved deliciousness! (recipe below)
First up in our Spotlight is veteran Indy Food Swapper Erin Colgan (pictured above). Like most of us at the inaugural swap last August, she arrived at The Earth House Collective not knowing a single person in the room. But she was up for a culinary adventure and decided to give it a whirl. Erin is rather famous now in our swap community for a radish dip that should probably have its own Hollywood agent at this point. It’s that popular… and that good.
Just how devoted is Erin to food swapping? Well, registration for our January swap opened on the very same day she went into labor with her second child. But, never fear! Hospitals have wireless access, don’t you know? So she was able to register for the swap from the comfort of her hospital room (between contractions and all the other fun stuff that occurs whilst birthing a baby!) Can we give the girl a round of applause?
Originally from Wisconsin, Erin moved to the east side of Indianapolis five years ago when her husband’s job brought them to town. She is a public health nurse who also spent two and a half years in Nicaragua with the Peace Corps, a stint that left her with a deep appreciation for the easy access she has now to ingredients for cooking.
Here, she gamely answers my questions, and offers up the zucchini pickle recipe that had folks lined up at our October swap.
Q: Which three words come to mind when you think of your first food swap experience? Excitement, nervousness, satisfaction.
Q: What did you find the most surprising about food swapping? How many different kinds of things there are to swap! As long as you can eat it, you can swap it.
Q: What’s your favorite part about the food swaps? Sharing ideas and discovering new foods. I love going home excited about different things I bring home, or things I saw. My husband usually meets me at the door, ready to look at, and try, all the goodies.
Q: Is there a favorite item you brought home from a food swap? Corn salsa! I’m pretty sure I ate the entire jar in a few days. And around Halloween I brought home some decorated pumpkin cookies. My son loved them and learned the word pumpkin at the same time.
Q: How long have you been cooking? It’s been a gradual process. Now that I have a family I see the value in homemade food. I love cooking a meal that both my husband and son eat and love. I can’t wait for my kids to help me make dinner and get excited to learn how to cook.
Q: Do you have a favorite cooking experience? After college I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua. I will always remember getting together with other volunteers and cooking a real, homemade meal. We got so excited about simple foods like homemade spaghetti sauce, or a simple cake made from scratch. It was real work to collect all the ingredients- veggies from the market by the bus station, sugar from the corner store, bread from the house next to the health center, pasta from the town two hours away. Every day was like a scavenger hunt to make a meal. I will always remember those times and never take for granted what we have here.
Q: Have the swaps inspired you to make something yourself at home that you might not have attempted before? It’s inspired me to learn more about canning. I’m taking a Master Preserver class this summer, and I can’t wait!
Q: Do you have a current ingredient or dish obsession? I’m really into crock pot recipes lately. Maybe this makes me a lazy cook! How great is it that you can just fix it and forget it? The trick is to find a great recipe, make a double batch, and freeze half for leftovers. This must make me seem lazier! Recent successes include slow cooker sloppy joes and maple and brown sugar steel cut oatmeal.
Q: What tool in your kitchen do you use more than any other? I like to spread the love. Nothing really sticks out. I really try to have only things that I use in the kitchen. The less commonly used things are waiting in the basement.
Q: What kitchen tool would you say is the most overrated? My husband would say my stand mixer. I got one as a wedding gift. Doesn’t everyone put that on their registry? It sat on a shelf in the basement for the first three years of our marriage. Then, one day I was making banana bread with my two-year-old and thought it would be easier to use the stand mixer, so I brought it upstairs. He loves helping me add ingredients and turn it on and off, completely supervised of course! But, it still lives in the basement, and comes up only when needed.
Q: Imagine Oprah gives you a Visa gift card to buy whatever kitchen item you want. What do you pick and why? Until last week I would have said a dishwasher, but now I have one! I think I would really like a nice deep freezer. I would love to have more room to freeze. The things you can freeze are amazing! Plus, I could always have things on hand for spur-of-the-moment cooking.
Q: Imagine Oprah also offers to babysit and buy you and your hubby dinner at the Indy restaurant of your choice (because Oprah’s generosity knows no bounds!) Where do you go and why? Wow, I hope Oprah is good with kids because I have a difficult toddler! I would be inclined to pick the most expensive restaurant I could think of, but my mind goes blank. We loved Mesh on Mass Ave, and Brugge Brasserie in Broad Ripple. But we also enjoy some Eastside eateries: El Sol, Jockamo Pizza, and Papa Roux. Basically we love to try anything that’s not a national chain.
Q. OK- you meet someone who is curious about food swapping, but nervous about attending. What would you say to encourage them to give it a try? It’s fun! You don’t have to be an experienced chef. Make something that you make all the time, something you know other people love. When you come to a swap everyone goes away happy. You will go away having tried new things, and with ideas of what you can make in your kitchen. Now whey I try something new I think to myself ‘can I swap this?’ And the answer is usually yes!
Erin brought these pickles to our October swap, and they were a huge hit. The recipe is from Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. If you’re new to pickling, this is a quick, simple, and delicious recipe. Yields three pint jars, or six 8-oz jars.
- 1 pound zucchini, very thinly sliced
- 1 medium yellow onion, very thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp sea salt
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- 1 1/2 tsp crushed yellow mustard seeds
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- Add zucchini and onions in a large bowl. Add salt and toss to combine. Add a few ice cubes and enough cold water to cover the zucchini. Let stand for about one hour, until zucchini are soft and salty. (Note: It’s not necessary to peel the zucchini before you slice it.)
- Drain zucchini, dry throughly (between towels, or spin in a salad spinner), and set aside. Rinse and dry bowl. Return zucchini and onion to bowl.
- In a saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, mustard seeds, and turmeric over medium heat. Simmer for three minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until warm to the touch.
- Pour cooled brine over zucchini and onion mixture, stirring to combine. Transfer to jars and keep refrigerated for one to two days before serving. Will keep for three months in the refrigerator.